Pittsburgh Pirates’ outfielder Starling Marte, on the tail end of an 80-game suspension for PED use, broke his silence today, apologizing for his actions.

In an exclusive sit-down with Root Sports Pittsburgh’s Rob King, Marte, speaking through an interpreter, appeared contrite, humble and ready to make a contribution to his team.

When asked by King what happened that led to the positive test, it took Marte a few seconds to begin speaking. And when he did, it started out haltingly. “It was a very difficult situation for me,” he began. “And I feel very bad that I put my team and my city and myself in this situation. This has been very hard to deal with and I am very sorry.”

This was the first question of the interview and the first time fans are hearing from Marte since he issued his initial statement upon receiving the suspension. In it, he blamed “neglect and lack of knowledge” for causing him to be in the situation. What we saw today was a Starling Marte who was past blame and ready to acknowledge his mistake. It’s refreshing and the first step toward putting the situation behind him and rebuilding his reputation.

Telling His Team

In speaking about what King called an “emotional meeting” with his team, he explained, “That was a very tough day. I cried in front of my teammates.”

Professional athletes often work to keep their emotions in check. In fact, being able to squash down nerves, anger, fear, sadness, etc. and perform at a high level is often a reason they are successful. There’s also the macho factor to consider. To admit that he got emotional humanizes him, an absolute necessity as he works to regain the respect of teammates, other players and fans. To err is human, after all.

He said that he received immediate support from catcher Francisco Cervelli and fellow outfielder and Dominican Gregory Polanco.

“Cervelli and Polanco, they reached out to me, they told me it was going to be okay, for me to continue to move forward, continue to battle,” he said. “Since it happened, they have continued to stay in touch with me and continued to help me through this situation and be ready to come back and contribute.”

It certainly is in his best interest to lean on Cervelli, who himself served a 50-game suspension 2013 for use of PEDs as part of the Biogenesis scandal when he was a member of the New York Yankees. Cervy told Newsday that going to the clinic was a mistake and one that he had to own. And so he did. And while the paragraph about his involvement in Biogenesis appears every now again in write-ups on the amiable catcher, he’s rebuilt his reputation as a hard-working, passionate (if not a tad brittle) player. He’s beloved amongst the Pirates fanbase and an example of how honesty, remorse, hard work and a good sense of humor can help a player rise above their past.

“A Heavy Weight”

Marte recalled to King that when he first learned that he’d tested positive, he was driving and immediately called his wife. He said that, concerned for his safety and well-being, she instructed him to pull over and calm down before driving home so that they could address the situation as a family. “It was a heavy load, a heavy weight on me,” he related.

Although it seems like a minor detail, this was an incredibly humanizing moment for Marte to reveal. It illustrated two things: 1.) He was shaken and emotional by news of the positive test – which speaks to his claim of ignorance about the situation, and 2.) It shows that he had the full support of his wife throughout his ordeal. That familial support is vital as he works to come back to the game he loves.

Don’t Call it a Comeback

Speaking of comebacks, Starling Marte made his rehab start today for the Bradenton Marauders and is eligible to rejoin the MLB team July 18. When he does, Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle revealed that he’ll start in familiar territory, left field.

To prepare, he said he’s been working out twice a day. For the next few weeks, as he works through the rehab starts, he says he wants to work hard to get ready for July 18.

“I can start making contributions to the team. To play the way that I play, with enjoyment and with my heart to make contributions to the organization and to the team,” he told King.

He’s been watching the team from afar, something he admits is very hard, especially when they’re struggling.

“It’s very hard for me to see it,” he said. “Because I think about how much I have impacted that, impacted the way they are thinking and I want to find a way to be there to help.”

A Message to the Fans

To the fans of Pittsburgh, Starling Marte had this to say:

“To the city of Pittsburgh and the fans I want to say that I feel very sorry for what happened, for what I did that is something that is not going to happen again. [I] have learned significantly from this and that [I] am prepared to come back to contribute to the team, to earn the trust of the city, to earn the trust of the fans and the people who have followed his career and for them to know that [I] value that.”

Will the fans welcome him back with open arms? Only time will tell.

Marte met with a small number of media today before the game in Bradenton. Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects filed this report – accessible to all – on that press conference. It’s definitely worth a read.

Featured photo credit – Daniel Decker Photography

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Joy Frank-Collins

Joy Frank-Collins is a Communications professional who got her start writing as a journalist at a daily newspaper in southeastern Ohio. She was born in Reds country, but “found” baseball watching the 1986 Mets win the World Series. She lives in Marietta, Ohio, with her family, who all share her passion for Pirates baseball. She loves the suicide squeeze, a crisp 6-4-3 double play and catchers (especially Russell Martin). When not obsessing over baseball, Joy likes to work out, travel and drink wine. Check her out on Instagram @JoyFC